Men In Black: International


Viewed – 29 October 2019 online-rental

I wasn’t expecting much from this but as a casual fan of the other movies (although I never got around to seeing the second movie), I suppose a desire for easy watching fun and the usual reliability of Chris Hemswoeth grabbed my attention.

This follows the story of a woman (Thor Ragarok’s Tessa Thompson) who following an alien encounter as a child has always dreamed of joining the top secret organisation that turned up that fateful night but didn’t do the mind-zap thing on her like they did to her parents. As an adult she gets her chance and is quickly recruited and given a job to join the London division headed by Liam Neeson. There she is quickly partnered with Chris Hemsworth’s cocky, reckless agent ‘H’ and stumbles on a new threat to the planet.

The story is weak here, something involving a powerful weapon, and is mostly an excuse for a fun if very predictable caper with some entertaining banter between Hensworth & Thompson. Although the twist this time around to reverse the roles and offer up plenty of female empowerment, sadly leaves Hemsworth (and generally any male) as merely joke-fodder or targets of female chauvinism. Oh, hasn’t equality come a long way?

That being said, action set-pieces are decent, production values high and it’s still fun. It just lacks anything beyond the points made above to warrant its existence following a fairly complete and finished trilogy. The failure to even mention Will Smith or Tommy Lee Jones’ characters also seems a strange oversight. For die-hard fans only.

Verdict: 2.5 /5

Avengers: Infinity War


Viewed – 09 May 2018  Cinema

Do I suffer from comic-book movie fatigue?  To a degree yes.  I still enjoy some super-hero smack down action but have felt underwhelmed by recent fare both through over-familiarity with the concept and the desire for something different and a little deeper.  So we come to this epic instalment where it seems Marvel is throwing everything at the viewer for the ultimate battle against what appears to be the ultimate foe – Thanos.  Hinted at and foreshadowed in previous movies, the intergalactic megalomaniac, played by Josh Brolin is finally out to claim the fabled Infinity Stones, of which if he claims all six will give him ultimate power over life and death in the universe.

Avengers Infinity War

So the stakes are immensely high and it’s up to a disbanded Avengers (Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Scarlet Witch, Black Widow etc) and any friends they can pull into their ranks (including Spider Man) to stop this powerhouse of a villain.  In a movie like this it would be easy to go lazy and just fill the run time with fight after fight, which we get in spectacular fashion … but what takes this to another level is the depth to the characterisation I wasn’t expecting and even though it’s crowded with ego’s butting heads, somehow many of the characters get time to have their moment and stand out individually.  Despite such a serious situation it also throws in moments of decent humour, especially with the inclusion of the Guardians of the Galaxy, with the scenes between Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Chris Pratt’s Star Lord proving particularly funny.

So we come to the central figure here, the long awaited and somewhat hyped appearance of Thanos, and Josh Brolin brings a surprising amount of pathos and grit to the character that makes him the closest Marvel has got to the level of Heath Ledger’s Joker.  He really is that good, and in a movie with many surprises and bold plot developments, he elevates the movie into the realm of classic status.  The fact the movie takes risks with a very familiar formula, especially in it’s closing moments just has to be applauded also.  This is the best Avengers movie yet and could possibly be the best Marvel movie.  So simply put, you have to see this one.

Verdict:  5 /5

Thor Ragnarok


Viewed – 13 March 2017  Blu-ray

I had heard a lot of good things about this and confess to really enjoying the Thor character and the lore surrounding him, even if I like many was underwhelmed by the last solo Thor outing, Dark World.  In this third instalment, sandwiched somewhere between Avengers: Age of Ultron and the forthcoming Avengers: Infinity War, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is captured by a demonic being who is said to bring about Ragnarok, the end of days for Thor’s home world of Asgard.  However he sets about preventing this only to return home and find step-brother Loki up to his old tricks again, this time impersonating their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins).  However a turn of events brings another family member out of exile in the shape of Hella (Cate Blanchett) who vows to claim her rightful place on the thrown of Asgard even if it means killing everyone who stands in her way.

Thor Ragnarok

It would be easy for me to yawn at this plot, it being yet another Marvel disgraced family member coming out of the woodwork and vowing revenge against those that shunned him (or her).  It was done in the previous Thor movies and also (spoiler!) Black Panther, that it’s now getting very tired.  Thankfully then that isn’t the entire focus of this movie.  Oh no, firstly the dialogue is particularly sharp, with very funny banter from various characters, especially a wonderful, awkward buddy set up between Thor and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).  Add to this great support from Jeff Goldblum as the other-worldly ‘grand master’, several quirky side characters (the hilarious rock dude) and of course a still brilliant Tom Hilddleston as Loki – and this was just great entertainment throughout.  The movie treads a careful balancing act between all out comedic farce and straight up action adventure, but somehow manages it, and even if Cate Blanchett’s villain is a walking cliché, the actress usual screen presence and charisma stands out and has such a cool design, familiarity can be forgiven in this instance.

It’s often better when these kinds of movies don’t take themselves too seriously, whilst still managing to deliver great action, memorable characters and gob-smacking spectacle.  This is one such example. Highly recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5

The Huntsman: Winter’s War


Viewed – 21 April 2016  Cinema

Following some controversy over Kristen Stewart and the director of Snow White and the Huntsman, this sequel has languished in development with us not really knowing what we were getting.  Turns out a sort of origin tale and a sort of follow up, with mixed results.  Chris Hemsworth returns as the charismatic Huntsman whose growing love for fellow warrior Sara (Jessica Chastain) quickly catches the eye of bitter Freya, the sister of Charlize Theron’s Ravenna who has now turned Ice Queen following the death of her child and forbids the land from experiencing love.

The Huntsman

Despite lacking the scope of the actually very good Snow White and the Hunstman, and possibly on a smaller budget – this is still an entertaining ride.  Hemsworth is again charismatic even if his (Scottish?) accent is pretty bad.  The same can also be said for Chastain who makes for a bad-ass warrior woman but strays awkwardly between Irish Emily Bluntand Scottish.  Thankfully then their love affair and the rivalry between Emily Blunt’s Ice Queen and Theron’s Ravenna are all handled well and make up for what is otherwise quite simple fantasy fair.  The action, especially some awesome fight choreography is exciting, and we also get a couple of Dwarfs in the form of Nick Frost and Rob Brydon who makes for perfect comedy support as does a scene-stealing Sheridan Smith.

Considering how much the character is mentioned, the lack of an appearance by Snow White seemed odd (even if recast).  Also I’d have liked some larger-scale battles and a few more creatures and effects going on … but what we have instead is a focused tale of love and manipulation and rivalry that I thought worked a treat.  Perhaps dial one’s expectations back a tad, considering how spoilt we have been with Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings etc. and you should still get a kick out of this.

Verdict:  3 /5

Avengers: Age of Ultron


Viewed – 29 September 2015 Online rental

With the never ending juggernaut that is Marvel Studios, it would be easy to say this cash-cow is getting milked dry. However with a plethora of comic book stories to mine from, those udders aren’t drying up any time soon. So we come to this sequel to the highly entertaining Marvel Avengers Assemble.

avengers

We are thrown straight into the action as our heroes attack a Russian Hydra base to steal back Loki’s sceptre (which you’ll recall him wielding during the last movie).  However little is explained as to what is going on or why, and so despite having seen all the other Marvel movies up to this, I still felt a bit in the dark. Now here’s the first issue – this is again a sequel that relies on you having a very good recollection of not just the last Avengers movie but also Thor: The Dark World and especially Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  So Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury is missing from the line up, the Avengers are holed up in Stark Tower with seemingly Robert Downey Jnr as their boss (?), and there’s two rogue super-powered teens wanting revenge for something Tony Stark did with a bomb.  Then Downey’s Stark goes and complicates it even more by creating an artificial intelligence (Ultron) that turns evil and goes all megalomaniac.

elizabeth olsenSo we come to this globe-trotting and overly complicated sequel’s saving grace … James Spader’s Ultron; a charismatic, darkly humorous villain, with seemingly unstoppable power and a somewhat clichéd kill the entire human race and start again evil plan.  Yet Spader livens up what would otherwise be just another, albeit action-packed super hero movie.  Director Josh Wedon’s skill at snappy dialogue seemed watered down in place of more realism, with downbeat and heartfelt exchanges instead of the humour I’d expected (although there are still some great gags).  The first half an hour or so also drags with a couple of redundant scenes (the tiresome lifting Thor’s hammer bit).  Yet a romance sub-plot between Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner / Hulk is handled well, and each character again gets their moment in the spotlight, most welcomely Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye.

Overall a solid sequel slightly let down by the usual sequel trappings such as too many characters and storylines going on at once.  Yet with slickly directed action, several stunning sequences (especially the Iron-Man vs Hulk fight…) I still have to recommend this one.

Verdict: 3.5 /5